me and the girls graduating last year! BSc Criminology with Forensic Science
My Facebook is littered with friends who were a year behind me and have just graduated. It's so great seeing all their photos and how their hard work paid off. I loved University but I did have a pretty unfortunate event that happened only 2 weeks in (understatement of the century) and it completely changed mine and my family's life, so I wouldn't say it was the easiest time for me. However, none the less, University is so much fun! It's not easy and it's not going to be anything like you expected it to be but I don't regret going at all! I remembered googling and researching everything I could on University before I went. I'm a typical 'I need to know everything about this situation before I embark on it' kind of person. So, I thought I'd write a post that I may had found useful back then. This is purely based on my experience as well as some of the people around me.
[fyi. I graduated in July 2015]
Before you go:
- Social Media:
I went to a University 5 hours away to a City I'd been to once and where I didn't know a single person. I'm pretty confident being in a crowd where nobody knows each other but even I was feel a tad nervous before I went. I'd recommend looking on your University's Facebook page. I found loads of people that were staying in my Halls of residence or on my course before I'd even got there. The majority of them I don't remember even speaking to, or if I did we didn't become best pals for life but it definitely took the edge off! One girl I had on Facebook before I even went, we never spoke on it but ended up becoming best friends... I can't get rid of her now [yes, I'm talking about you Steph].
- Home shopping:
I was so excited to go to University. Me, my mum and nan all went shopping for all kinds of home-related items! We hit Ikea HARD. Now, I'm not saying go and buy loads of stuff and spend a fortune...[if anything I took waaaaay too many items to University] but some of those halls of residence aren't the most appealing or homely feeling places! Buying cushions, or posters, or photo frames to have for pictures of you and family/friends dotted around really helps. It will more than likely be the first time you've lived away from home so trying to make it a little cosier will hopefully help with the homesickness! A lot of the other people got their family to make some home made meals for them to stick in the freezer, this seemed to help too! I lived too far away to do this so never got that kind of luxury! Oh, and buy a onesie and many blankets. You can thank me later.
- That first couple of days:
It's going to be awkward. Theres no beating around the bush, it is. Purely because everyone is absolutely cracking their pants. Even that gobby kid who is overcompensating, even they are shitting themselves inside. You're in an environment thats completely new, you have no idea what to expect and who these people are you are with... but it's the same for everyone! I think some people can feel a little lonely that first couple of nights before Freshers week has started and maybe not everyone has moved in. But I promise you, everyone will be in the same boat as you! You do need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and be brave! It's all totally worth it though. Only two of my flat mates had moved in (both boys) but they both harassed me and dragged me around the halls trying to find people to party with. I ended up meeting one of my very good friends that night and me and her were inseparable for a lot of university. It's a very weird situation to be in but it's pretty amusing to look back on! Maybe be that person who brings cookies or alcohol to share with everyone... everyone loved that person! Just don't be afraid to go up and talk rubbish to someone you've never met, they'll appreciate it and you will feel better too!
- Freshers week:
Okay, so Freshers week is one giant blur. You will talk to about 800000 people, claim you are all best friends and probably not speak after that week to the majority of them again! [until you are drunk and bump into each other in the lift one night and rekindle your forever friendship for 5 more minutes]. However, you'll also meet some of the coolest people ever. You'll end up finding someone just like you, someone nothing like you, someone who you thought really wasn't your cup of tea and you'll end up loving each other! Just again, put yourself out there. Talk to everyone. Go out with that random group of people that live down the hall. Just roll with it! (Obviously stay safe and keep your wits about you) but honestly, it's going to be a fun and exhausting week!
- Societies/Freshers fairs:
I remember me and my flat mates hit every stall available in the freshers fairs! We got a lot of free stuff... [I remember pizza slices very vividly]. The fair's were full of discount cards, vouchers, ideas of places and things to do as well as a lot of free pens! It was something good to just get you out in the day with your flat mates and just chat and bond over all the free rubbish you managed to collect! Another form of fair was the society fair. Now, I went to this with a couple of friends but due to not feeling so fresh at the time, I didn't really take much in. I do regret that and wish I had joined a couple. It's an easy way to meet people who have the same interests as you. There were all sorts from book clubs, ski clubs, music, sports, LOADS of different things. I'd definitely recommend checking them out. You're not always going to love your flat mates or everyone on your course so this is another way of getting out there and meeting more people.
It's going to happen. Some people it only happened a couple of times and then others it was a weekly thing but its completely normal. I'd recommend maybe setting aside a weekend a couple weeks into university just to head home and catch up with everyone. It'll just ease you into everything a little easier! Skype is also great! I skyped my family [including the dogs], all the time. It really helped, especially with me, due to how far away they all were but everyone did it! You could hear everyone in their rooms chatting with a family member or friend and eventually it got to the stage where your flat mates would come in and start chatting away to your family too. Finally, if you are feeling a little down because of it, just tell one of the people you've gotten close to! Theres no shame in it at all, everyone gets homesick. Everyone my friend down the hall was homesick [she also moved very far away] or I was we would just watch shitty films together in bed and eat every form of snack we could find. It wasn't quite home but it helped!
Yes, the main reason you are at University is to get that degree [well in theory that should be the case]. That first couple of months will be very confusing. The teaching methods and environments are so different! You don't have teachers making you do tasks or chasing you up when you've not completed work. You are there to be independent and get shit done yourself. This, obviously, requires a lot of motivation. Something which I definitely lacked when it came to education. The fact that my mum wasn't there to drag me out of bed in the mornings definitely did not help! But, it is something you need to keep on top of and try not to fall behind in as it can be easily done. Some lecturers can be really helpful if you just drop them an email and they'll meet with you to discuss any difficulties or concerns. They might not be as involved with your studies as your college or sixth form tutors have been but they do want you to do well so it's always worth making contact with them after a lecture if you're struggling. If a certain lecturer of yours maybe isn't so useful, there are always other routes like guidance tutors or course leaders to also approach for a hand!
As a student, the world knows you as poor. This can however be a benefit. There are always a lot of student deals on in restaurants or the cinema etc so it's worth keeping that student card on you at all times! Now, I didn't use the NUS card however I did hear good things about it. I got along fine with my student card provided by the University, even if I lost it every couple of months. There are also ways to get discounts online so its worth checking out websites like Unidays.
Food? Buy a lot of cupboard based foods that don't go out of days for a while. This will save you when you've run out of food and you're rummaging in your cupboards and find a glorious packet of super noodles you forgot about [dinner sorted!]. I'd also recommend freezing everything that you can! So much food gets wasted in University where people decide to go home for a couple of days and then they get back to find all their food is no longer edible.
Another tip if you're living away from home, get a rail card! I was lucky in that I got one from having a student bank account with Natwest, but it will save you a lot of money from travelling back and forth to see your friends and family as we all know trains aren't the cheapest thing!
The odd bits:
- You will put weight on. You may not be able to afford much but the stuff you get your hands on will more than likely be junk food. This combined with a lack of moving but a lot of alcohol will mean you will more than likely end up with freshers belly.
- You will become nocturnal. Your sleeping pattern will be all over the place...
- You will appreciate your parents a lot more. Who knew washing and cooking and ironing was such an absolute ballache ey?
- You won't be friends with everyone from first year by the time you get to third. You'll make lifetime friends yes, but some will fade out throughout your university years. Its just life!
- Not moving into halls? I realise it can be more daunting to not being going into halls but still attending university. I'd advice hunting down course friends online before and just tagging along with them on the fresher nights out. You're still a fresher! Just go and join in on the events and enjoy yourself. Also, just take the plunge and chat to everyone you can in the course. Theres also bound to be a course night out so try and get in on that. Even if you don't drink, being there will help loads!
I current work with students either in higher education or heading that way and try to support them with their studies. I thought I'd pass on some of my knowledge as I would of loved to have known what it out there when I was studying! Definitely would of gotten a higher grade.
Websites and Apps:
There are so many free websites and apps that help with studying. Search for different things in the play store or app store to help with things like grammar and note-taking! It's worth downloading apps that you can use to record the lectures (you need to seek permission for this) as its great to have a back up of the lecture for those times where you've not got everything down. It's also a good idea to save the audio on to your laptop so you can revisit them at any time. 'Ginger' is also a great free app to have on your computer to help with your grammar. 'Remember the milk' app for your phone and computer is great for time management and keeping on top of things. If you get a student email address (ending in .ac.uk) you should be able to get the online Microsoft Office 365 for free as well, sometimes the University will also provide it free of charge to their students.
Learning difficulties or a Disability?:
It might be worth looking into DSAs allowance. This is another form of support for you in University to help with studying, this can be either technology based support and/or human support (like a tutor). It's not a daunting task, there are no tests or anything like that. It's a chat with someone about studying and the areas of difficulty and they can hopefully try and put things into place that can help. It's for all sorts from dyslexia, to mental health (anxiety, depression etc) to physical disabilities. It's also worth speaking with the disability advisor at the university to see what support is available, you can do this before you even start.
- Ps, its also worth seeing what features are built into your computers. For example, my mac has text-to-speech built in so I can proofread my writing using this. I did not know this during the entire time I was at university with my mac... If your laptop doesn't have this feature, you can search online for free text-to-speech software.
I hope this post helped in some way. I loved University and I have made some life long friends. Granted because I live so far away I don't get to see them as much as I'd like but I get the options of city breaks away to visit them which is always nice!
Leave your tips below or any concerns you have and I'll try and be of use. I may do an extended post dedicated to study tips at a later date!